In two press releases, the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Press Association and The Editor’s Guild have expressed strong objection to this move.

Misplaced priorities Journos condemn FIR against reporter in Aadhaar breach caseImage for representation.
news Aadhaar Sunday, January 07, 2018 - 19:20

Indian press associations have joined forces to strongly condemn the UIDAI for filing an FIR against a reporter of The Tribune, for exposing the supposed loopholes in the system. In two press releases on Jan 7, the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Press Association and The Editor’s Guild have expressed strong objection to this move by the UIDAI.

The Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps and Press Association express their strong objection and condemnation at the registration of a FIR against a reporter of The Tribune, by an officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India, for writing a story exposing alleged loopholes in the system.

The FIR, lodged with the Cyber Cell of the Crime Branch invokes serious charges under the IPC, IT Act and Aadhaar Act. This move runs counter to the UIDAI's claim that "the Aadhaar data including biometric information is fully safe and secure".

If there is no breach, what is the offence they are supposed to have committed? Rather than addressing the loopholes, which would actually ensure safety and security of the data and allay the general concerns about this, the UIDAI has chosen to persecute those whose actions appear to have been only in public interest - i.e, drawing attention to the possibility of data insecurity before someone with ulterior motives is able to exploit them.

The UIDAI filing criminal complaints against the reporter and her sources is clearly reflective of its misplaced priorities. We, the undersigned organisations find the UIDAI's move extremely intimidatory, obstructionist and inimical to the pursuit of free, fair and independent journalism. We demand that the complaint and the proceedings related to it should be withdrawn forthwith.

Issued on behalf of -

Gautam Lahiri (President) - Press Club of India

Shobhna Jain (President) - Indian Women's Press Corps

Jai Shankar     (President) - Press Association

In another release, the Editor’s Guild of India expressed similar views on UIDAI’s action.

The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over reports that the Deputy Director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had registered an FIR against Rachna Khaira, a reporter of The Tribune, in the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police. The reporter has been booked under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating under impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document) and also under sections of the IT Act and the Aadhar Act.

The Tribune report of January 3 by Khaira had exposed how, for a small sum of money made to a payment bank, an agent of a private group would allegedly create a gateway to access details contained in an individual’s Aadhar card. Using a false identity, Khaira had posed as an interested party and claimed in her report that she had easy access to details that individuals had listed in their Aadhar cards. The UIDAI in a statement had subsequently denied that any data breach was possible.

The Guild condemns UIDAI’s action to have the Tribune reporter booked by the police as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest. It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press. Instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public. The Guild demands that the concerned Union Ministry intervene and have the cases against the reporter withdrawn apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter.

Signed

Raj Chengappa, President

Prakash Dubey, General Secretary

Kalyani Shankar, Treasurer

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